FILM NEWS: FEB. 13-19 | Cinema Clips | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

FILM NEWS: FEB. 13-19 

New This Week, Special Screenings, and Current Releases

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NEW THIS WEEK

Citizen K 3 STARS
Muckraking documentarian Alex Gibney uses the tale of Mikhail Khodorkovsky—former oligarch of the early post-Soviet years turned political dissident—to explain Vladimir Putin's rise to power, and why the Russian pretty-much-dictator is today so dangerous. Once the richest man in Russia, Khodorkovsky took advantage of the chaotic "Wild West" atmosphere in the new Russian republic to amass a huge fortune. And as the saying goes: It takes one to know one. Khodorkovsky might be downplaying his own crimes, but his insider knowledge is far more important: He understands how Russia worked then, and continues to work today. Khodorkovsky was complicit in the "gangster-capitalist" takeover of media in 1990s Russia, a stranglehold that continues to this day, which helps perpetuate the profoundly undemocratic status quo. (Hence the film's title, a reference to Citizen Kane.) Sound familiar? There is vital context here for the apparently ongoing Russian interference in U.S. politics, but even more vitally, this is a warning that the outright monstrosity of the current Russia mess is not far off for us as well, if we don't turn away from the path we're on. Opens Feb. 14 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (NR)—MaryAnn Johanson

Downhill 2.5 STARS
See review on p. 37. Opens Feb. 14 at theaters valleywide. (R)

Fantasy Island
[not yet reviewed]
Blumhouse turns the 1970s TV classic into dread. Opens Feb. 14 at theaters valleywide. (PG-13)

Incitement 2 STARS
How do you say "incel" in Hebrew? That was all I kept thinking through this story that dramatizes events leading up to the assassination of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, through the eyes of his assassin, Yigal Amir (Yehuda Nahari Halevi), a right-wing opponent to the proposed Oslo Peace Accords with the Palestinian Authority. There's not much character arc to Yigal, who is violently opposed to Rabin's actions from the jump; director Yaron Zilberman focuses on how Yigal is further radicalized by conservative rabbis supporting a scriptural defense of killing perceived traitors to the Jewish people. While it's interesting to be reminded that not only one religion has extremists using holy writ to justify violence, without a truly compelling central character, the film feels like a slow slog toward a tragic historical inevitability. Halevi certainly captures the righteous certainty of a zealot, and how Yigal's rejection by a woman (Daniella Kertesz) fuels his rage. There's no attempt to make Yigal sympathetic or rationalize his actions—a filmmaking choice that is morally defensible, yet leaves little to latch onto from a storytelling standpoint. Opens Feb. 14 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (NR)—Scott Renshaw

The Photograph
[not yet reviewed]
The daughter (Issa Rae) of a recently-deceased renowned photographer explores her mother's history while beginning a new romantic relationship. Opens Feb. 14 at theaters valleywide. (PG-13)

Sonic the Hedgehog 3 STARS
The Sega video-game character (voiced by Ben Schwartz) here becomes a super-fast alien exiled on earth, trying to hide himself from humans in rural Montana—until kindly local sheriff Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) and the sinister Doctor Robotnik (Jim Carrey) become aware of his existence. The plot becomes a buddy-comedy road trip to retrieve Sonic's lost dimension-hopping gold rings, and there's a nice chemistry in what becomes a simple "there's no place like home" narrative. Carrey is in vintage form as the narcissistic villain, having as much fun with his plastic physicality than we've seen in years. Sure, you're gonna get your obligatory fart joke, and the action is a little rote at times. But there's a lot more to like here than we ever could have expected after last year's nightmare-fuel first trailer. Opens Feb. 14 at theaters valleywide. (PG)—SR

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

At the Video Store
At Main Library, Feb. 18, 7 p.m. (NR)

Dark Waters
At Park City Film Series, Feb. 14-15, 8 p.m. & Feb. 16, 6 p.m. (PG-13)

CURRENT RELEASES

1917 3 STARS
If you want viewers immersed in your story, what value is there in repeatedly reminding them, "This shot was really hard to pull off?" Director Sam Mendes approximates a single-take, real-time story set on the World War I front lines of France in April 1917, as British Army Lance Corporals Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Schofield (George MacKay) set off on a mission to warn a company of fellow soldiers that they're about to head into a German trap. From the outset, Mendes builds tension into their harrowing journey, and veteran cinematographer Roger Deakins lends his distinctive touch to the increasingly hallucinatory tale anchored by MacKay's intense performance. But then there's that whole gimmick thing, and a story built on the notion of feeling it shouldn't leave you instead simply admiring its technique from a slight remove. (R)—SR

Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn 2.5 STARS
A movie can have interesting ideas, and still be a sloppy delivery system for those ideas. This sequel and spinoff of Suicide Squad finds Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) broken up with Joker, threatened with death by a crime boss and forced to track down a valuable diamond, all while crossing paths with several dangerous women, including the assassin Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Dinah Lance/Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell). Christina Hodson's script explores the notion of women who are taken seriously only when linked to powerful men, and the power of women pulling together rather than pitted against one another. But as much fun as Robbie has with the live-wire Harley, Cathy Yan's direction mostly gives us multiple variations on slow-motion fight sequences. Maybe you can make a zany, violent comic-book movie that's also rich with subtext, but this ain't it. (R)—SR

Invisible Life 3.5 STARS
This period-piece Brazilian tearjerker follows two sisters, a budding piano prodigy (Carol Duarte) and her free-spirited big sis (Julia Stockler), in 1950s Rio de Janeiro. Unfortunately, they spend most of their lives kept away from one another after their father (Antônio Fonseca) disowns the older sister for running off and getting pregnant. Any person who's had to deal with their own fare of deceitful, family bullshit will no doubt connect with this story, based on a Martha Batalha novel. Writer-director Karim Ainouz does give audiences a moving portrait of two women trying to hold on to each other as their dreams and aspirations fade away, thanks mostly to a patriarchal society filled with oppressive men who think they know better. Think of this film as a less-palefaced companion to Greta Gerwig's Little Women. (NR)—Craig D. Lindsey

The Gentlemen 3 STARS
Director Guy Ritchie returns to telling blackly comedic stories about modern-day London criminals, in this tale of journalist Fletcher (Hugh Grant, continuing his quest to ensure that the entire planet knows he no longer has the tiniest fuck to give) attempting to extort a boatload of cash from drug dealer/American expat Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) after digging up plenty of dirt on him. The narrative consists largely of Fletcher relating this dirt, which means we never know which bits we should accept as accurate; is it all just fodder for the morons listening (or watching)? But the real meta stuff here involves an unapologetic metaphor for Brexit, as Mickey takes advantage of British aristocratic delusion to further his business. It's all just silly cinematic fun! With nothing that makes you laugh about the real world lest you cry! Of course. (R)—MAJ

Little Women 3.5 STARS
Writer-director Greta Gerwig takes Louisa May Alcott's 150-year-old text and finds a way of telling it that feels new and vital. She radically re-imagines the structure, opening with Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) already in New York trying to build a career as a writer; the narrative flashes back from there seven years to Jo and her sisters—Meg (Emma Watson), Amy (Florence Pugh) and Beth (Eliza Scanlen)—living with their mother (Laura Dern). That fragmented chronology turns it into a tale juxtaposing the lives the young protagonists imagine for themselves with the choices they ultimately have available. Yet it's also gloriously entertaining, thanks to the top-notch casting. It's wonderful to see this source material as a call to recognize the unfairness the world might throw at you, stare it down, and decide you're going to make your own happiness. (PG)—SR

The Rhythm Section 1.5 STARS
Not a single human interaction in this disaster of a spy thriller rings true—not even the exploitive, baldly transactional ones. Poor Blake Lively does her best as Stephanie Patrick, a former top-of-her-class Oxford University student turned (checks notes) crack-smoking prostitute turned (checks notes) freelance intelligence operative/assassin. But the hamfisted script—by Mark Burnell, from his novel—elides all motivation essential for understanding and empathizing with everyone onscreen. What the heck drives Raza Jaffrey's journalist to approach Stephanie about the story he's investigating, that the plane crash that killed her whole family was, in fact, an act of terrorism covered up at the highest levels? What the hell drives Jude Law's ex-MI6 agent when he decides to turn Patrick into a kickass secret agent who can hunt down the perpetrators of that terrorist incident? Who can say? Not this movie. (R)—MAJ

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